Tribe fights salvage logging

An Indian tribe has jumped into the legal fray surrounding the salvage-logging rider signed by President Clinton last summer. The Klamath Tribes of southern Oregon filed a lawsuit March 13 against the Forest Service, charging that the federal government has shirked its responsibility to preserve traditional hunting and fishing grounds.

When the tribe relinquished some 20 million acres to the Forest Service in 1954, a treaty required the agency to protect forest resources for the tribes. Tribal leaders say eight salvage-logging contracts recently awarded in the Winema and Fremont national forests will cause further declines in two staples, mule deer and fish.

"We are forced to file this lawsuit to preserve our traditional way of life," says Jeff Mitchell, chairman of the Klamath Tribes. Frank Erickson, a spokesman for the Winema forest, says that the tribes' real gripe is with the U.S. Congress. "Basically, they want their land back," he says, "and that is not within our power." - Bill Taylor